1924 Fordson Tractor and No. 3 Geiser Keep Family’s Past Alive

No. 3 Geiser and 1924 Fordson tractor pair remains part of North Carolina family's heritage.


| September 2014



1924 Fordson Tractor and Geiser No. 3

Bird's eye view of the Freeman family's 1924 Fordson belted to the Geiser No. 3.

Photo by Jacob Freeman

My name is Jacob Freeman. I am the grandson of Robert Freeman Jr., Marshall, North Carolina. I have always called him “Papaw.” I am the great-grandson of Robert Freeman Sr., known to everyone as Bob Freeman.

I was asked by my papaw to write the story of their 1924 Fordson tractor and No. 3 Geiser threshing machine. Papaw has said for the 10 years that he has subscribed to Farm Collector, he has never seen a No. 3 Geiser (or any Geiser threshing machine) mentioned. The story of these two machines started in the late 1930s.

“I was with Bob Freeman when he bought the 1924 Fordson tractor near Greeneville, Tennessee,” Papaw told me as I sat in front of him with my computer in my dad’s garage. “He brought it back to the house in Madison County, North Carolina, and he started a wheat threshing business. We used the tractor to belt-pull a No. 3 Geiser threshing machine that we think was built sometime in the early 1900s.”

That tractor and threshing machine combination was used to thresh wheat for people all over Madison and Buncombe counties from the late 1930s until the mid to late 1950s. That is when Bob sold the Fordson tractor for $35, after it was unused for about three years.

Tracking down a tractor

“In the mid 1960s I tracked down the Fordson,” Papaw said. “The man that Bob had sold it to couldn’t get it started so he gave it to John Bell.” John Bell owned Main Auto Parts in Asheville, North Carolina, about 20 miles from Marshall, where Bob and Papaw lived. “John Bell couldn’t get the tractor started either, so he had it parked in the back of his shop. I looked at it and knew it was Bob Freeman’s old tractor, so I went in to talk to John. I asked him if the tractor was for sale. I acted like I had never seen the tractor before. John said it was and that he would take $75 for it. I told him I would give him $50 and we settled on $65.”

So the tractor had been sitting a total of 13 years without having been started. “We had to push the tractor into the shop when we got it home,” Papaw said. During the time it was in the shop, it was torn down and rebuilt. “While we were taking the motor apart, Bob Freeman was watching me,” Papaw said. “I asked him how often he changed the oil in the engine while he had it. He sat and thought and said ‘I don’t think I changed it once while I had it.’” The men who owned it after Bob Freeman thought that the reason it wouldn’t start was because of the carburetor. “When we got the motor torn down,” Papaw said, “we found out that the magnets on the flywheel had lost their magnetism. That was the real reason why it wouldn’t start for all those years.”